In the world of email, Facebook, Twitter, texts and blogs sometimes the phone gets overlooked. But it is a powerful tool. Especially, as demographers note, for people over a certain age. Many people grew up with the phone being the most immediate form of contact – the way to reach out and touch someone. Other ways are available, but there is an intimacy and yes, immediacy, that other methods don’t offer. With the phone you can actually talk with someone. You hear their voice, they hear yours. You can laugh, connect, make decisions, schedule appointments and then move on.
Don’t Let Voicemail Trip You Up
Once upon a time a great advance in the life of phone communication was voicemail. What began as a time saver can actually be a nightmare for many nonprofits, small and large. We suggest you take a moment to call someone in your organization from an outside phone and see what happens. Whether you are a hospital, college, or grassroots organization, you may be amazed by what you find. See how many menus you have to work through to get a voicemail recording for the person who may be the right one to help you. Then wait to see how long you have to wait to get a call back. If you are in the business of serving people – as many nonprofits are – test to see if phones help or hinder your service.
Beware the Gate Keeper Mentality
If you are an executive, an assistant can make all the difference in your life. But, what if he or she is actually a gatekeeper instead of a door opener? A non-profit leader we know told us a story that changed his perspective on business. One day he was trying to make an appointment to see an executive of a certain high profile agency. The receptionist was grilling him on who he was, and the nature of his requested meeting. In the middle of the conversation the executive walked out of his office and told the receptionist, “I hired you to make sure I stayed connected to the community, to open doors, not to close them.” Non-profits large and small need to have an open door, accessible culture.
Here’s a few reasons why – first, you never know who the person on the other end of the phone is. Your voicemail or your assistant may be “screening” a potential major donor. Or maybe he is creating a barrier between you and a potential volunteer. One organization we often call puts through all calls to the executive director without screening. She will talk with anyone, creating a warm and welcoming environment even if she is not the person who can really help you.
Here’s our point – take a moment to see if your phone is enhancing your organization or detracting from it.
Let us know what you think. And as always, remember to have a FUNdraising Good Time! – Mel and Pearl Shaw